this is a special edition of "nightline." "flash point: refugees in america." tonight, a year-long journey. the syrian refugees who now call america home. and the americans who want them out. david muir across this country and from who's vetting the syrian refugees? who are the champions of those children here at home? >> i do not think that hate and fear should redefine who we are. >> this special edition of
this is a special edition of "nightline." "flash point: refugees in america." >> this journey begins one year ago. the first day school in one and for this new first grader, that nervous look back. >> go line up! >> reporter: chrysler elementary school. modesto, california. and the welcome they've been practicing in the main office. >> salaam. >> reporter: two sisters signing
halah is 6 years old. her home in syria now burned to the ground. >> welcome, halah. >> reporter: on her first grade door here in america, a sign in arabic. >> can you read that? >> hello, salaam alakum. this is halah. >> hi, halah. >> halah is very special because she is not from america. this is where syria is. >> reporter: our cameras roll as questions about the girl named halah. >> what happened to syria? >> what happened to syria? there's some not good things happening in syria right now. america is a safe place for them to be. >> reporter: no one could have predicted what was about to happen in towns across america when terror strikes around the world. >> we're letting in people that can potentially hurt our society as a whole. >> reporter: and all of it comes
that haunting picture of a syrian boy. his body washing up on the beach. the humanitarian crisis exploding. what to do with the syrian refugees? just weeks after that searing image last september, we were there when halah's family arrived on that flight to america. >> i'm very happy from my bottom to be an american. >> reporter: a crash course on life in america. >> vaccination records, lease agreements -- >> reporter: world relief. a resettlement agency. how not to flood the dishwasher. how to use the washer and dryer. how to get to walmart. we notice a smile when she discovers a familiar spice. then there's halah who was taking it all in. >> which one do you like? this is where the buses will stop, you'll see a stop like this. >> every one?
>> reporter: there they sit on a journey in their new country. and we were about to check in. how are they now doing on their own? >> how are you? can you give me five? >> reporter: down the short hallway to the bedrooms shared by the children. >> may i see? >> reporter: halah's older city ala proud to show me her school notebook for geography. >> syria. do you miss home? >> i miss. >> you miss home. where do you >> here. >> is that your school picture? i like how you put your hand on your hip. >> reporter: her first sign of confidence. as her older sisters are now testing. walking into high school in america. >> we're going to test them, their english ability. put a line there, that's "p." refugees from the middle east arrive without even fully the ability to write. >> reporter: high school teacher lindsay byrd runs the language
>> i'm from yemen. >> maria is also from syria -- >> reporter: maria would be a lifeline for those sisters escaped war. in halah's class -- >> say yellow. this one, yellow. say yellow. yellow. red. >> reporter: the disconnect is daunting. >> there were a few mornings that she cried probably for good hour and a half. >> reporter: halah, lost in her new world. but her father still remembers when halah was hurt in syria and there was no help to be found. >> do you feel safe in america? >> reporter: but 45 days after they arrive in the u.s., this.
one of the attackers using a fake syrian passport, posing as a refugee. >> no paris in america! no paris in america! >> this has got to stop. they don't want to be americans. >> reporter: the political pressure mounts. >> the way the mayor did this was underhanded and conniving. >> we have to say no to that. >> reporter: suddenly 32 governors announce they will halt syrian refugees. and that syrian family in modesto is listening. >> listen, they could be isis. i don't know. if i win, they're going back. they're going back, i'm telling you. they're going back. >> reporter: in boise, idaho, we witness a flash point. >> this is about the safety of our citizens, our state, and our country! >> reporter: protesters angry over president obama's plan to accept 10,000 syrian refugees. >> we're not racist. >> reporter: the other side of the street, "we welcome refugees." >> you are the terrorists!
>> reporter: the protesters asking, how can we be sure who we're letting in? >> we better watch our backs. >> where is donald trump when we need him today? where's donald? >> reporter: living in that same town, a syrian refugee, a mother whose husband was kidnapped in syria, never to be seen again. she is now sensing danger here. >> i start to see people acting differently. i lock the doors, lock windows. somebody can attack us just because we are muslim or because we are syrian. >> reporter: then her son is attacked. >> he asked if they are muslim. my son, he said yes, i'm muslim. that american guy, he punch him in his face. he said, if i will see you downtown, i will kill you. >> court is now in session. >> state of idaho versus christopher love -- >> reporter: the 25-year-old is charged with a hate crime and pleads guilty to a lesser
sentenced to 68 days in jail. hate crimes against muslims are now at their highest level since 9/11. when we come back, we travel to amman, jordan. the crush of syrian families waiting to come to america. but who is vetting them? >> what kind of documentation do they have, if any? >> reporter: back in modesto, the community suddenly closing in. >> keep them out of our county. >> reporter: the tearful teacher defending them. >> i do not think that hate and fear should redefine who we are as ari inutes. nexium can take 24 hours. when heartburn strikes, take zantac for faster relief than nexium or your money back. take the zantac it challenge. more "stay" per roll. more "sit" per roll.
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in america. >> if you want to help somebody, help somebody that's outside this door right here. you don't need to go any further than that. >> reporter: the family of syrian refugees we've been following never thought it would come to modesto. we watch as the teachers suddenly change lesson plans. >> raise your hand if you are aware of the attacks that happened in paris. there's been a lot of very strong opinions on whether the united states should allow syrian refugees into our country. >> donald trump, he said that if he wins he's going to send all syrian refugees back. >> that's sad. >> why do you think that's sad? >> because like they're over here, they're all safe, then they're going to send them back where they like -- where some had family members killed over there. >> reporter: aya sits with her head down. >> good afternoon, boys and girls -- >> reporter: amid simmering anger and suspicion across this country, we find 6-year-old halah, now preparing for her
>> mr. turkey, gobble, gobble! who that is? mr. turkey! >> reporter: and ala, who is struggling with her english, is about to bravely tell mrs. byrd's high school class about the horror her family endured and why for her first thanksgiving she is truly thankful. >> my uncle and his family fled from but their boat sank. and his wife, two sons, and two daughters, dead. >> reporter: but her fate here in america has been far different. >> i am also thankful for the united states of america, for the reception of the refugees. >> very good, excellent. we want to make sure that our students don't ever turn to hate. >> if you have any power at all, keep them out of our county. thank you. >> reporter: we witness the
modesto. >> they're going to use this refugee resettlement to put their terrorist operatives in other nations. >> reporter: mary roverson, a mother, grandmother, now organizing the protest. >> we don't know who they are, what they are. syria doesn't even have the proper documentation. >> reporter: right there, mrs. byrd who finds herself not in her classroom but at that podium. >> i would like you to meet these students are i would like you to see their value. i do not think that hate and fear should redefine w w >> when you hear some of the rhetoric in this country -- you're smiling. >> i would welcome those individuals into my classroom. it's obviously spoken from ignorance. i would invite anybody who subscribes to that meltity to spend one day in my classroom. >> open invitation? >> open invitation. >> she says, my classroom door's
have you ever gone to those classes to see who these people are? >> no. >> what could you say to the refugees who point out they're fleeing isis too? >> what i'm saying is we don't know who they truly are. >> where do they put them? >> we need to put them in a place until we figure it out. i don't care if it's a camp, whatever. >> reporter: and she points to what the fbi director james comey has said himself about vetting refugees. >> i describe it as a process that's gotten a lot better but that we risk-free. >> reporter: so we travel the 7,400 miles from modesto, california, to amman, jordan, to see the vetting process for ourselves. here in jordan, across the syrian border, there are more than 600,000 syrian refugees. despite the backlash back in the u.s., so many of them are still desperate for the chance to go to america. through this doorway, we immediately discover a crush of humanity.
screened by the u.n. now waiting to be interviewed by the u.s. >> how many interviews? >> four interviews. actually, five. >> five interviews. they come through here? >> yes. >> reporter: gina is with the u.s. state department. >> they're brought into a security screening area. >> reporter: for a vetting process that can last two years. we are taken to a hallway lined with small rooms and through the windows we can see family after fa >> how can you possibly learn everything about a family through an interview? >> i'd say that the interviewers are very highly trained. they are trained to look both not at the documentation but also for the credibility behind the applicant's story. >> when you say documentation, this is syria. they've been at war for years now. what kind of documentation do they have, if any? >> surprisingly, 97% of all adult applicants in our pipeline have valid syrian documentation.
screened through the terrorist watch list. the intelligence data base s bak in the u.s. and homeland security makes the final decision. >> there are times when it will flag you, a particular family, and they get pulled? >> absolutely. the applicant's at the airport, we have to prevent them from boarding the plane. >> reporter: tonight the u.s. state department selts of the 840,000 refugees admitted to the u.s. since 9/11, a "tiny fraction of 1% have been arrested or removed because of terrorism concerns." critics say, stilloo inside this room, the syrian families who have just been cleared for america. this is cultural orientation. where they're taught about their new home. the teacher asks them what's allowed in the u.s. and what's forbidden? she shows them a picture of a couple kissing in public.
then she asks about polygamy. asking if it's legal in america. they begin to clap. the next lesson about america, the melting pot. they're asked a simple question. which of these faces are american? >> denzel washington. beyonce. >> reporter: these families leaving within days. >> how many of you are excited to go to the united states? give me one word that describes america to you. >> the land of chances. >> for americans who are worried about refugees coming to the u.s.? >> they're humans like you. we want to be one of you.
>> reporter: we wondered if they had any questions for us. >> we'll take that question with us back to the united states. >> reporter: and we journey across amman to find one more family. we're about to witness the moment they get their answer. their home bombed in syria. they show me their homemade swing in the hallway. the children miss their playground back home. this is your playground? >> yes. >> department then tells them they're next. >> on september 6th. you will travel to kansas city, missouri. >> reporter: we watch as it sets in. then a question for us. we show them on a map. kansas city is a beautiful city. it's a beautiful city, and the baseball team, they won the world series. >> reporter: a smile from the son who loves sports. but we notice tears from one of
her mother tells us she is sad to leave her friends yet again. >> david muir joins us now. i love that line, the land of chances. he had a chance to talk to one of the refugees who had a question for donald trump that you brought back to the states. >> we interviewed trump in recent days and asked him about syrian refugees. he said, "done, no more, done." those were his words. he said, "we have no idea if they're isis hillary clinton says she's long been an advocate for stronger vets and her campaign still supports the notion we should be accepting refugees. >> the little one. >> halah, in the beginning she couldn't say "yellow" for the teachers, so daunting. you've got to see how it ends. >> all right. more when we come back. that means you get to try as much as you want... ...of whatever flavors are calling your name.
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has the opportunity to nominate one student. next is miss ala al jabbara. she was nominated by miss lindsay byrd. miss byrd had this to say. "she has poured her heart and soul into mastering english. she is a truly role model for all students. congratulations." >> reporter: one very proud mom. >> did you think at the beginning of this school year you would end the year with a medal? >> no. when i came here, i didn't know anything in english. >> look at you now. >> i speak english. >> yellow? say yellow? >> reporter: then halah. who seemed so lost in that classroom when we first met her a year ago. just listen to her english now. >> of the flag of the united